THE service at Crediton Methodist Church on Sunday, June 23 was led by Rev Andrew Sails when his theme was “Ship of the Church”.  

Andrew spoke of the forthcoming election and said the role of the Methodist Church is NOT to tell you which party to vote for, but said when you vote, please, please, as Christians, follow the Gospel – you need to vote with love in your heart.

So many people will vote for what is best for them and their family. Actually the Gospel tells us not to put ourselves first but to put the poor, weak and vulnerable first.

There are lots of manifestos around. Did Jesus have a manifesto?

If you look at Luke 4, right at the beginning of His Galilean ministry, Jesus went into the synagogue and opened scripture – and I think you can say this is His manifesto.

He said: “I come to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release for the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to set the oppressed free.”

Andrew said many of Jesus’s friends were fishermen.  The Israelites were not keen seafarers but they knew how dangerous the sea could be and their relationship with the sea was a struggle rather than a joy.  

In Hebrew mythology the sea was seen as a symbol of evil, chaos and threat.

When John in Revelation wants to paint a picture of the perfect and idyllic city of God he says “and the sea was no more”.

When Mark wants to sum up Christ’s ultimate triumph over the powers of evil he tells the story of Jesus stilling the storm.

The waves stand for evil and chaos which God will ultimately conquer but with which you and I, in the meantime, have to contend. Perhaps it is not surprising that the early church came to think of itself as a ship.

From the days of Noah onwards, God’s sailors (you and I) have often had bad weather.

In the case of Jonah, the sailors had to cope with bad weather which was their own fault.

St Paul does not seem to have been at fault when shipwrecked. God does not guarantee good weather for His sailors and the church should not expect everything to be plain sailing.

Christ says “follow me, hoist the sail”.

As a seafaring church that we are, we should commit, as God’s people,  to engage with a world of sin and sorrow.  How often, as Christians, are we tempted to have our cake and eat it but jump ship and  avoid the actual voyage?

Here is the question – what sort of church are we trying to build?  A safe, secure building to keep us free from harm or the means whereby we ride the storms in the power of the Spirit to follow God into the unknown?

You know the weekend sailors in the posh ports who spend their Sundays at the marina polishing their boats and then settle down to a bit of sunbathing or a G and T on deck.  Their beautifully polished boats never leave port.

So as a church, let us seek God’s blessing as we leave port and go where the Spirit directs us. Remember that the ship of the church is nothing like a cruise liner that goes round in relaxing circles from where it begins. 

So here we are crewing the ship at Crediton Methodist Church. Which is not a Caribbean cruise liner, but a cross between crewing with Jonah and St Paul, booking a passage on the Mayflower, a Greenpeace protest ship and mercy relief ship and the Exmouth lifeboat.

If that sounds scary, remember the stilling of the storm and remember, ultimately, if we sail with Christ, all will be well. 

As sailors in the ship of the church we are called to be enthused by the vision of hope.

We are called to look through and beyond the horizon in the sure and certain hope for what we believe will be. Christ is beckoning us beyond the horizon.

What is our view from the horizon hope? It is of a world in which God is glorified and a world at peace in which  power is used to build others up not grind them down – a world where every individual is affirmed and valued.

Bronwyn Nott